Lifting fish ban fury
A government plan to allow fishing in South Africa's oldest marine protected area along the Tsitsikamma coast has sparked a huge outcry from experts, who say it is "highly irregular" and could have a devastating effect on fish stocks. The Department of Environmental Affairs recently published its draft regulations for the rezoning of the Tsitsikamma marine protected area - managed by SA National Parks - after 20 years of discussions with fishermen in the area.The fishermen have been campaigning for the rezoning, complaining that the protection was declared 50 years ago without public participation.They say this stripped them of cultural, historical and recreational rights.On Saturday, they handed a memorandum to the national parks demanding the lifting of the protection by December 15.In the draft regulations, the department has identified four areas for this purpose and gives the public until 4pm on February 1 to object.Professor Peter Britz, from Rhodes University's ichthyology and fisheries science department, said the government's move had wide and "very disturbing" implications."This is a shocking example of poor governance by the department mandated to protect the environment," Britz said.He said the decision was in direct conflict with the declared purpose of the park.Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the move would benefit society and ensure such benefits were protected for future generations."The trade-offs between benefits and the protection of the resources that provide benefits are complex and subject to continuous change as human needs evolve and new knowledge accumulates," she said."The government must be prepared to continuously reassess these trade-offs in consultation with its various partners."Britz said the regulations implied restitution for historical fishing rights lost with the declaration of the protection in 1964."A restitution process must follow clearly defined constitutional principles, and a transparent and participative process," he said.Britz said political lobbying had resulted in the department circumventing environmental laws and policies. He said the impact would be dire."A previous economic impact assessment funded showed that increased protection of the park increased its economic contribution to the local area and that removing protection diminished it."The Tsitsikamma Angling Forum's Henrico Bruiners said communities in the area had a connection with the stretch of coast which spanned many years."Our forebears fished in the area, and 50 years ago this tradition was ended without input from us," Bruiners said.He said fishing for them was a way of putting food on the table."We are not planning to strip the coast of all its resources, we also need to protect it to ensure the next generation can continue the tradition," he said.